Jingle Ma is unable to revoke the success of the Tsui Hark’s 1994 classic…
Review by Neo: As mentioned in the review of Playboy Cops (2008), Jingle Ma is an up and down director. Surely his films have a certain glossy look on it, but Butterfly Lovers simply does not work on a number of levels. Charlene Choi is too cute to be playing roles in ancient costumes and Fahrenheit’s Wu Chun looks far too modern than ancient. With the casting already borderline leaning towards unconvincing, it is little doubt that the film fails to convince and the result is a film that is rather blend and uninspiring. Looking back at Tsui Hark now classic 1994 version, starring the likes of Charlie Young and Nicky Wu, this one pales in comparison by quite a long mile.
The story is the age-old tale of a girl pretending to be a guy so she can study in a martial arts school. Logically, a girl will be weaker than guys in martial arts training and therefore, with the kind hearted help from one of the guy student, the two become closer and closer. As per expectation, the guy fall for the girl and the girl fall for the guy, but the girl already have another pre-planned marriage. Basically, you probably already know how it will end and yes, there will become butterflies as love is in the air and so on.
Charlene Choi is not a bad actress and no matter how crap a movie is, Choi will still be able to shine through with her likable cuteness. Think, My Wife is 18 and Twins Effect just to name a few. It is not really a bad thing for Choi to reunite with director Jingle Ma. After all, it produced one of Choi’s best performances to date back in 1999 with Funeral March. But the same cannot be said for Butterfly Lovers, while Choi still is able to maintain her cute image, she is unsuitably mis-casted and at the end of the day creating a string of unconvincing thoughts within the audience mind. Basically, it is a case of wasting the talents of Choi and also not allowing a more suitable actress, perhaps Fan Bing Bing or Zhou Xun the opportunity of delivering something truly special.
Likewise, Wu Chun is too raw and his acting is far too unrefined. Still, this is not the biggest problem as Nicky Wu is not Tony Leung Chiu Wai either. The difference is that Wu looks nothing like a martial artist in Ancient China and his modern good looks seem to be hampering his presence and the actual progress of the movie. Other supporting acts provides an interesting divergence, especially with the appearances of former kung fu heroes in the likes of Ti Lung, Xiong Xin-Xin and Louis Fan Siu Wong.
Unfortunately, the blame cannot be falling entirely on the casting, as it is ultimately the director choice as to how he wanted to approach the movie. Director Ma seems far too uncertain in many parts of the film, for instance, one moment Ma seems to be focusing on comedy and cuteness and then it goes serious with some slow motion crying sequences. Ma is confusing the audience and notwithstanding, he is losing the audience actual patience. It is these kind of movies that ultimately turns the Hong Kong cinema audience away from watching movies in the cinemas. There are no longer the same level of excitement as the early 90s, rehashing a film is not exactly sparkling originality, but if it comes up worst than its inspiration, then the film is not really doing a world of good.
All in all, Butterfly Lovers is really a pure commercial disappointment. Director Ma, who previously directed the brilliant emotional endings in films like Fly Me to Polaris and Funeral March is unable to reproduce the aforementioned form and quality. This flick is a dud in nearly all aspect of filmmaking. From the miscasting of Charlene Choi and Wu Chun, to the dislocated sound track and some unconvincing action directing from Ching Siu Tung and of course who can forget to put the blame on Ma’s shoulders as well. As unforgiving as I am, and notwithstanding the fact that I used to be a big fan of the Twins duo (back in the 2002’s), it is safe to pronounce that an astounding “NO” will be decerned from me. Not even Charlene’s cuteness can change the fact that this is a commercial failure and a critical failure of actual filmmaking … (Neo 2009)
I rate it 3/10